Saturday, June 30, 2007

The View from Seat 5A

Until recently I was a dedicated aisle seat person when I traveled. After flying for a number of years, I found that aisle seats gave me more room and access to stand up if I felt like stretching. I didn't have to ask anyone's permission to move around or to retrieve an item from the overhead bin. But a few months ago, I came across a book about photography from the window seat of a plane, which inspired me to reconsider my old seating regime.

Since that time I have started to request a window seat and with my camera started to photograph out the window. At first I was skeptical that I would get any images that would be interesting, and some of the shots like a lot of my photography are rejects. The biggest challenge is the high contrast (the difference between light and dark in an image) and strong haze that is created on bright sunny days. But with all else digital, Photoshop comes to the rescue. With a little color balance and some sharping, the photos are a bit more presentable. Because I don't want to draw attention to myself during the take offs and landings I use my little point and shoot camera, which means the resolution on these photos is not the best.

So far, because I live in Phoenix, I have had the most luck photographing landmarks in and around the Valley. The shot of Camelback Mountain includes my favorite public golf course, Papago, which is located on the boundry between Phoenix and Scottsdale. In the same shot if you look to the north of the McDowell Buttes you'll notice another golf course, Arizona Country Club, a course that I worked at during high school.

I even tried to photograph some afternoon clouds as they hover over the desert. The heat during the summer raises off the desert floor and creates dramatic cloud formations. These thermals are very popular with hang gliders and bald eagles because they provide the energy to soar for hours; they're a little tougher on the fixed wings of a commercial jet. So they are much more fun to photograph than to fly through.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Camp Luke

I went camping this past Friday and Saturday night with a group of friends from my work. We went north near Flagstaff, to a place I affectionately call Camp Luke. The name is derived from a couple of the participants at this year's camp. This is a new site from the place we stayed at a couple of years ago which we called Camp Shane. I use the term "camp" rather loosely, because if you look at the map of the site you'll see that we weren't far from Flagstaff which made the entire trip very comfortable. If we needed anything we could just run into town and pick it up. In a way, we were just escaping the heat of the desert by going up into the mountains. We ate like kings - we had steak on Friday night, and BBQ pulled pork on Saturday night. Some of the guys went fishing in upper Lake Mary but didn't catch anything. Lower Lake Mary is dry and looks like a marsh. I went for a hike on Saturday. Overall the forest is extremely dry and there were very restrictive fire conditions including no campfires.

The roads around the campsite were very dry and dusty. The main road was some distance from our camp, but one morning I was able to get a picture of the sun rays as they reflected off the airborne dust in the air. Both mornings and evenings were terrific, as the transition from a warm day into a cool evening took place; or as a very cool night would turn into a warm early morning.

My friend Shane organized the entire trip; he is a very experienced outdoorsman which makes camping with him ideal because he has all the necessary stuff and knowledge. He also has a good attitude about life. He appreciates the simple things, good food, an open campsite and decent fishing. Sometimes it is the simplest things in life that can bring us the most happiness, we just have to slow down enough to appreciate them.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Favorite Old Picture

My parents were married on this day in 1950. Half-way around the world at 4AM on June 25, 1950, the Korean War started. Since Korea is past the international dateline, people in the United States learned of the invasion on June 24th. My parents heard the news at their wedding reception. So I thought a bit of remembrance today was appropriate...for my parents, not the war.

My favorite picture of my parents is one of them just finishing a meal together. There is no notation on the picture so I don't know when it was taken, but there are clues in the picture that reveal some information about when and where it was taken. First, neither of them are wearing wedding bands, and my mom doesn't have on an engagement ring. This clearly means the picture was taken before 1950. I don't know how long or on what date they were engaged but I'm guessing the picture was taken sometime in 1948 or 1949. Second, if you take a close look at the larger version of the picture, the letter "P" surrounded by olive branches is visible on the water glasses and the ash tray. This is the symbol for a hotel in downtown Chicago called the Palmer House. When I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, I had other family members staying there (it is still around and is very nice) and I took a picture of the hotel's famous "P" symbol. It matches the photo.

In any event, it is cool to think of my folks having a good meal, laughing together and then maybe going for a drink or dancing. Chicago was and is a great city, so it was fun to visit there and experience the energy of a large city like my parents.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

6/20/2007: Stranger of the Week

First off, I must admit, that I stole the "Stranger of the Week" idea from another blog. Actually the photographer on that blog was posting a "Stranger a Day", which seemed far to ambitious for me. But I found the idea compelling. I particularly like the concept because I tend to be shy and it is difficult for me to meet new people sometimes, but by having a "project" that I was working on, I had a purpose to approach people and ask them for a photograph. So far I have only really done it once in Chicago, and actually it was a guy looking for some spare change, so I guess technically he approached me. See post below. But I digress. Since I really didn't have a photo to share this week, I thought that I would put one up that came from my recent workshop to Guadalajara. I was walking through the town of Jocotepec, when I met this guy. He was friendly, spoke decent English and wanted me to take his picture. He had family in Southern California and was interested in telling me all about them. I eventually had to duck in a store to get away from him. I thought he had an interesting face with good character. The lighting wasn't the greatest because it was around noon on a very bright day. His nose is almost blown out. Next time I will use a reflector or some other way to bring some light to the other side of his face.

Not such a small world after all

create your own visited countries map

I found this site tonight that lets you map out the countries of the world that you have been to. According to this site I have been to 19 countries which represents only 8% of the total countries in the world. I think of myself as fairly well traveled, at least as far as Americans go, but put this way, I feel as thought I have lived almost an isolated life to the rest of the world. I hope to add a few more countries on to the list before the end of the year.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Photos with audio

Tails Competition at the Guadalajara RodeoYo
I thought that I would try out this new website called yodio which allows you to add audio to pictures that you upload. This is a picture that I took in Guadalajara earlier this year that I have uploaded to my flickr account. Simply click on the picture and it will take you there. You can now also click on the "yo" icon above to hear me talk about the picture through the yodio website. Just something new to try and I might expand the use of yodio website at a later time.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"It's a principle of physics"

A few thoughts about my dad today. When I was growing up, I like most kids, I suppose, thought my dad was the smartest guy in the world. I was able to ask him the most complex questions about science, math, any subject really and he had the most straightforward answers. Many times when I would ask him about some phenomenon that I had seen in the world he would say "it's a principle of physics". He then would go on to explain the answer using Newton's third law of motion or the Kelvin scale of thermodynamic temperature. It wouldn't be until many years later that I even understood what physics was, but his explanations always seemed to satisfy me and it gave me a great interest in science and ultimately philosophy.

My dad had a healthy philosophy towards life, a devout catholic, he was also a man of rational thought, this allowed him to blend the spiritual with the pragmatism of the modern world. He loved gadgets, technology and especially photography. I remember that he brought back a 35MM Konica camera from a trip to Tokyo in 1972. Later, after he had died, that camera was the one I started learning on. So photography is something that I inherited from him, and therefore I curse him every time I go to buy a new lens or have to get the latest update immediately to Photoshop. I also miss him the most at those times because I know that he would have been fascinated by the way photography, especially digital photography has progressed and it would have been something we could shared and enjoyed together. But it is not bad to miss someone, it makes you value the time now, with the people you love.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads today.


"My mouth is full of decayed teeth and my soul of decayed ambitions." - James Joyce

Today is Bloomsdays which is celebration of the Irish author James Joyce. The day gets its name from the main character, Leopold Bloom, in Joyce's epic novel Ulysses. Since the beer companies have hijacked St. Patrick's Day, this day is a good substitute in which to celebrate the Irish and what is good about our culture. Tonight some friends and I went over to the Irish Culture Center (yes, there is one in Phoenix) to participate in the party that they put on. Overall a fun and unique event. As part of the celebration, there was a beer tasting where different breweries had their products there for all to try. There certainly were some exotic brews like the Speckled Hen. It might have been a mistake to have the literary readings in the same room as the beer tasting. The audience was certainly there to drink beer and most of the time there was loud talking through the readings. I will say that the book is much easier to follow when it is spoken a loud rather than read. It is a tough book read so any help is appreciated.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Final thoughts on Chicago

I really lucked out with the weather this weekend in Chicago. Because I grew up near there, I guess I always anticipate that it will either be very cold or hot and humid. Couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. Weather like that expands the accessibility of the city and allows you to explore so much more. I walked everywhere and ran into a few things I hadn’t expected like a book fair, the old popcorn stand that my dad use to buy from and the gentlemen that I mentioned in the post below. The downside to all this good weather is that it doesn’t quite set the mood I was looking for in my photographs. They all look like cheap knockoffs of postcard shots. Would it have killed them to ship in a little mist and fog for me?

One final note on Chicago in general and this is something that my brother John mentioned to me; and it relates to the video I have linked below. (I’m still messing around with the video feature of my little point and shoot camera). The shoreline along Lake Michigan is all city owned, which makes it exclusively public space and not subject to private development. If you watch the grainy, shaky video below you’ll be able to see the vast park space that borders the lakeshore. I can’t think of to many other cities where the public waterfront is so well preserved and protected for its citizens. In most of the world only “the man” gets the waterfront property.

Stranger ot the Week

As I walked through Grant Park on Saturday I was confronted by this gentlemen. The self-proclaimed "King of the Bums". He spoke with a British accent that seemed authentic and claimed to have five children and a pregnant wife. His house was under the bridge I was crossing. I gave him two bucks to take his picture (I've paid more for model releases) and snapped his photo.

In general the homeless population in Chicago seemed to be under control. I'm not sure if they are shipping them out of the central city or if the city services are having a positive effect. I know that when I have visited San Francisco recently there seemed to be many more people struggling and on the street. It is really hard as a tourist to make a determination on those types of issues since you may be seeing cosmetics rather than reality.

My Second City

I visited Chicago this weekend to attend my nephew’s wedding. Chicago is a terrific city. Great cities are self aware of their own significance and it seems that there is this collective consciousness of its leaders and citizens that drives them to initiate projects that are unique in scope and design. To visit Chicago is to be able to participate in the great public benefits that the city has to offer whether it be in the public transportation system, the arts, the many parks and public spaces. That doesn't even consider the legendary sports teams, great institutions of higher learning or it's museums. I walked around the city most of Saturday taking pictures of some of the public art that the city has to offer. The Picasso I remember from my childhood because it gathered so much attention during my youth; you can read more about the “Chicago Picasso” at this link:


The city recently completed a new portion of their lakefront park system, which is called Millennium Park. The park has a giant stainless steel jellybean type structure (the name is actually Cloud Gate) as one of the highlights. No matter how you approach it or walk around it, the artwork reflects back a portion of the skyline or the lakeshore thus reminding you of the great city that surrounds you. You can read more about the scupture here:

Cloud Gate

The final pictures is of Marc Chigal’s mural “Four Seasons”. You can find out more about this sculpture at:


I’ll write more later, but wanted to get an initial post up.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

D-Backs Win

I went to the Diamondback game tonight with my friend Tim, actually I have two friends named Tim, so we call him Joey. It is a long story, so I will just leave it at that. Fun night. Expected to see Barry Bonds, but he didn't play because Randy Johnson was pitching and the left hand pitcher has always been a problem for left hand batters not only Bonds. We did see some unexpected things though. Johnson's eighth and final strikeout of the night in the fifth was the 4,605th of his career, moving him into second place on the all-time strikeout list ahead of Roger Clemens. Nolan Ryan, at 5,714, is the all-time leader. Since Clemens is scheduled to come back this season and pitch for the Yankees, he and Johnson might flip-flop during the season for the second position all-time. No matter what, it was a very cool thing to see in person. Johnson is arguably the best left hand pitcher ever to play baseball.The game ended on a Chris Young home run in the bottom of the 10th, this is called a walk off because the players literally walk off the field after the player touches home plate. The picture is from Chris Young approaching home with all his teammates around while the umpire watches for the touch. All in all a fun night.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Maui Wind

Past the beach through the resorts and onto the sugarcane fields, the wind in Maui was constant. I first noticed it while I was on the beach one night photographing the early evening light. I spoke to a lot of people who had visited Hawaii prior to my visit and I don’t remember many of them talking about the wind. Perhaps they mentioned it and I didn’t take note or maybe I was foolish not to expect it on an isolated island chain in the middle of the Pacific. Strong enough to knock you over at times, I’m sure that I will miss it on warm nights in the Arizona desert.

The Accidental Tourist

I’ve come to realize that tourist get a bad rap. There have been times when I have traveled and seen the big, air-conditioned motor coach and thought to myself “those people aren’t having an authentic experience…” But then there I was, in Hawaii, on a big air-conditioned motor coach in my swim shorts, flip-flops and a one-inch layer of 48 spf sunscreen, headed out for some grand adventure called the “Rain forest hike” or the “Sea kayak adventure”. Granted that these experiences where closer to something you would see on the Disney channel rather than the Discovery channel but they do provide some insight. By figuratively and literally being able to stick your toe in the water you are introduced (or re-introduced) to an activity that you didn’t have the time or resources to normally experience. I haven’t ridden a bike in a number of years, but riding down Haleakala reminded me how much fun bike riding can be. I’m not the greatest swimmer but snorkeling gave me a greater appreciation for why people enjoy diving so much. These are certainly guarded and well choreographed excursions, but they can provide a limited taste to a much greater experience. So here are some pictures from my grand sea kayak and snorkeling adventure; and full disclosure, I didn’t see any jelly fish on my snorkeling trip this shot is from the Maui Ocean Center which is an aquarium located in the central part of the island. I didn’t have any other place to post it and it makes my adventure look so much more dramatic.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Road to Hana

Being from the desert, waterfalls are usually only a seasonal phenomenon during the spring runoff. In Hawaii, waterfalls run all year, fed by the constant accumulation of moisture from the rainforest in the upper mountains. I went on two hikes earlier in my trip, the best being one that led to Waimoku Falls in Kipahulu (this trip was on Monday). The falls are on the eastern most end of the island about 9 miles past Hana, which is a small town surrounded by dense rainforests. The Highway to Hana is a tourist attraction in its own right, as it winds for hours through green valleys, past waterfalls, and over one-lane bridges. To get to the falls you take an easy 2.5-mile hike up through a bamboo forest. The pictures doesn't do a good job of illustrating that this water fall is over 470 feet high.